A lifelong resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, Gordon is best known as an advocate for the unborn, although she spent years in the pro-choice camp. Her pro-choice leanings began to erode, however, after she started studying Objectivism, the philosophy of writer Ayn Rand, who wrote Atlas Shrugged and was herself pro-choice. Using the logical reasoning she had learned in Objectivism courses, Gordon became convinced life began at conception. However, she would wrestle with the problem of “bodily autonomy” for years, and remained pro-choice as a result.
She told the Catholic World Report last year that it was after she reflected on a Question & Answer column dealing with parental obligation written by Nathaniel Branden, Rand’s closest associate, that she finally solved the bodily autonomy conundrum:
“Given parental obligation, even in unwanted pregnancy, it is the child’s right to parental support and protection from harm that is trump,” she told CWR. “Parents have no right to intentionally or negligently destroy their children, nor do they have a right to evict their children from the crib or the womb and let them die.”
In an article she wrote years earlier, “Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly”, a work she considered her magnum opus, Gordon stated: “The parent-child situation is unique. It is the only human relationship that begins by one side bringing the other into existence. This fact of parental agency refutes any assertion that the child is a trespasser, a parasite, or an aggressor of any sort. Prenatal children have the right under justice to be in the mother’s body, and both parents owe them support and protection from harm.”
As recounted in the CWR interview, after her realization about bodily autonomy, and following disappointing discussions on this and other topics with a Libertarian feminist pro-choicer, and with Branden himself, she decided to join with other like-minded libertarians to form Libertarians for Life (LFL). “LFL was different from other pro-life organizations in that we seemed to be alone in focusing on why the so-called woman’s right to control her own body is false,” she said of her group.
In the years following, Gordon wrote pro-life articles for the LFL website, participated in pro-life panels, debates, and news conferences alongside religious pro-lifers, and participated in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. under the LFL banner.
The LFL will continue to be a resource of secular arguments for life.
The wife of the late Nathan N. Gordon, Doris Gordon is survived by her son Monte, daughter-in-law April, daughter, Julie Gordon, and five grandchildren. Contributions in her memory may be made to Libertarians for Life.
In their own words, a few distinguished prolifers discuss Gordon’s impact on the pro-life movement:
“For many years I worked with Doris in meetings of pro-life leaders, but most memorable was when she joined me side by side at a press conference at the National Press Club, prior to one of the national elections, and said, “I am a Jewish atheist here to say today that the Pope is right about abortion!”
We will miss Doris. I am grateful for her strong stand for life, and appreciate the same stand that other pro-life atheists and agnostics take against abortion!”
—Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life; President, National Pro-life Religious Council
“I knew Doris for decades, and we remained fast friends, which gave us the opportunity to watch as she developed arguments for the right to life of unborn children, and the way in which she made these known to the world. In later years, she also developed a web site which had essays from several experts, presenting the arguments against legalized abortion from a secular viewpoint. Her mind was razor sharp. In disagreements, she was always gentle, thoughtful, and could find that third answer. She was also one of those rare people who is willing to examine the evidence objectively, and go where the evidence leads, instead of becoming entrenched in her viewpoint. It was actually by studying the writings of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Brandon, who were both pro-abortion, that she saw the absurdity of their position, even though she remained faithful to many of their other views. The pro-life movement owes her immensely for stating the secular case for the right to life so clearly and making it so widely available. I miss her.”
—Pat Goltz, cofounder, Feminists for Life
“The pro-life cause is not only for traditional ‘family values’ conservatives, but for people of every political persuasion who care about the weakest members of the human family. In Gordon’s lifetime, she saw the pro-life movement become more and more diverse. That’s in part thanks to her, and she will be missed.”
—Kelsey Hazzard, President, Secular Pro Life
“Doris Gordon was one-of-a-kind. She was a fearless, dedicated, Jewish, atheist Libertarian whose profound and uncanny passion for the full and unblemished truth—wherever she could find it—led her unabashedly to prolife and her unrelenting defense of the unborn human child who “should also not be harmed,” thereby also procuring the blessings of that empirical truth for the good of society itself. She bode no exceptions with friends and colleagues. When Doris heard of my work with the long-established scientific facts of human embryology, I got that first call. For hours and hours she politely but brutally pulled each sentence I gave her apart, checking my logic, persistently demanding massive documentation for the scientific definitions, requiring exhaustive refutations of the fake “science” out there, probing and picking until she could finally acknowledge the now-laid-bare scientific facts, perceptively pondering where that must lead her. She would abide no fools. If one has not been put through that powerful intellectual grill of Doris Gordon then they have missed an opportunity of a lifetime! And it didn’t stop there. Once Doris grasped the unshakable truth of the humanity of the unborn child she was fearless in her efforts to bring that truth to everyone else, especially to her Libertarian colleagues, in order to do her part in righting the massive wrongs she saw perpetrated in the name of “choice.” So it is with great sadness that such a lion-heart has passed away. She will surely be greatly missed, but she is surely beloved of and with the Lord at last.
—Dianne Irving, M. A., Ph.D.
“Doris had that unusual combination: a great mind and a great heart. A gifted writer, she sought collegial criticism of her articles to make sure they were clear and forceful. When she was working on her masterpiece, “Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly,” I told her more than once that it was perfect and that she shouldn’t keep revising it. It’s well that she didn’t take my advice. She kept revising and made it even better. I believe it’s the best philosophical piece on abortion that anyone has written. Doris, her late colleague John Walker, and other libertarians have given a wealth of material to the pro-life movement. It’s available at the Libertarians for Life website [L4L.org], and it’s especially helpful to debaters and college students.”
—Mary Meehan, longtime friend, fellow writer, and senior editor, Human Life Review